Chances are your beauty routine is going through some changes. Self-isolation has thrown every appointment with a hair stylist, manicurist, and dermatologist into disarray. But what do you do when you're stuck at home with a pressing beauty question? Should I be wearing sunscreen? Are those long showers drying out my skin? How can I take off my gel manicure at home? That's where the experts come in:
- Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai, and Dr. Sameer Bashey, a New York and Los Angeles-based cosmetic and medical board-certified dermatologist, answered the essential skincare questions.
- Celebrity hairstylists Nikki Lee (who works with Selena Gomez, Emma Roberts, and Sarah Hyland) and Alex Brown (who has worked with Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, and Bella Hadid) answered all the scary hair situations you might find yourself in.
- Bellacure's manicurist Bri Sherman has all your nail dilemma's covered.
Below, all your most pressing beauty questions answered.
Skin | Hair | Body
Should I be wearing sunscreen in the house?
Yes, absolutely. "UVA light penetrates through window glass, so you're not off the hook for wearing sunscreenm even if you are inside," explains Dr. Zeichner. "If you're by the window, then you're still at risk for sun damage that causes premature aging and even skin cancers." You need to make sure your sunscreen is labeled broad-spectrum, meaning it protects your skin against both UVB and UVA rays.
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What about skin damage from blue light?
"Blue light, also known as high energy visible light, is emitted by lightbulbs as well as your electronic devices," says Dr. Zeichner. Sunscreen is one solution to the blue light problem. Dr. Zeichner advises on choosing a sunscreen that contains AA mineral blockers like zinc oxide.
"There are very few sunscreens that protect from this kind of light," adds Dr. Bashley. "The ZO Skin Health sunscreens contain antioxidants that help fight this kind of oxidative damage caused by blue light."
Apart from investing in sunscreen, you can also put a filter on your computer or cell phone, place all your devices in night mode, and limit screen time altogether.
Lastly, Dr. Bashley recommends a comprehensive skincare program that is filled with antioxidants such as retinol, Vitamin C, and a high-quality sunscreen.
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Speaking of computers and TVs, what about tech neck?
Tech neck, the physical strain we place on our neck by constantly looking down at computer screens, can cause significant cervical spine damage over time. "It also creates looseness of the skin tissue and sometimes even exacerbates a double-chin," says Dr. Bashley.
The leading solution to fighting the problem is fixing it ergonomically. "Do whatever you can to use your Bluetooth or at least hold your phone up high, so you are not bending down to look at it," explains Dr. Zeichner. "Plus, no selfie looks good if you’re holding the phone low because it will give you the appearance of a double chin."
Also, make sure you're applying the same antioxidant and collagen-stimulating ingredients like retinol to your neck as well as your face.
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I shouldn’t be touching my face right now. How do I do my skincare routine?
It's simple: Wash your hands first. "When you're applying products to the face, make sure you wash your hands first. Then it's fine to use your hands," says Dr. Bashley. "Refrain from touching the face during the day, picking at the skin, and rubbing it."
Should I adjust my skincare routine and products while I’m staying in the house?
If anything, adjust for lower maintenance. Dr. Zeichner recommends keeping it simple. "Stick to a simple skincare routine of protection in the morning and repair in the evening, just as you would otherwise," he says. "Gentle skin cleansers followed by an antioxidant serum and sunscreen is a great routine in the morning and in the evening after cleansing, apply a moisturizer followed by a collagen-stimulating ingredient like retinol."
Dr. Bashley adds that you should always consult a dermatologist before making any significant changes or if you are treating a serious medical condition. While it may be hard to during self-isolation, several dermatologists are taking virtual appointments.
Should I be cleaning my makeup brushes more often now?
"This is a time to be extra vigilant about hygiene and that goes for your skin as well as anything that touches the skin," explains Dr. Zeichner. "We know that microorganisms like bacteria and viruses can live on moist surfaces, and recent data has shown that makeup brushes and sponges are a breeding ground for microorganisms."
Given how coronavirus is rapidly spreading, Dr. Zeichner recommends cleaning your makeup brushes and sponges after every use. You can use your dishwashing detergent to do double duty for your makeup brushes, or use a gentle cleaning solution.
How many face masks are too many face masks?
The limit does exist. "Facemasks may pass the time, help you relax, and make good fodder for your Instagram selfies, but there is such a thing as over-masking," says Dr. Zeichner. "I usually recommend masks once per week, given the circumstances, I would say a mask every other day or so should be fine."
If you develop any redness, burning stinging, or peeling of the skin, avoid a mask altogether. Calming clay or hydrating masks can also be used more frequently while masks that contain ingredients like retinol or hydroxy acids still should be used no more than once per week.
What effect is stress having on my skin?
"We know that stress has a significant impact on the skin," explains Dr. Zeichner. "Stress raises levels of a hormone called CRH, which stimulates cortisol to prepare our bodies for the stressful environment. At the same time, CRH binds to our oil glands, stimulating activity which leads to acne breakouts."
Especially during stressful periods, Dr. Zeichner recommends changing your cleanser to one that contain salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that removes excess oil from the skin and keeps the pores clear.
Make sure to lather on the skin while saying the alphabet before rinsing to ensure it has enough contact time on the skin to exert its effect.
Should I be washing my hair the normal amount?
No, says Brown. "I recommend washing your hair one to two times a week while we're social distancing," he says. "This is a great time to give your hair a break and do a hair mask or treatment weekly as well."
My grays are showing! What do I do?
Try a root touch-up! Not everyone is ready to go full gray, so this can help in the interim.
My platinum hair is fading! What do I do?
Brown recommends buying a purple shampoo or conditioner and using it every few shampoos to help eliminate any dull, unwanted yellow tones on platinum hair. (Your ass is brass without them.) His pick is Kristin Ess's One Purple Shampoo.
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I've had my protective style in for too long. What do I do?
Brown says it's time to take it out. "The tension from some protective styles can actually cause hair breakage and damage to the scalp."
What should I do with my roots while my hair grows out in quarantine?
"Before attempting to color your hair at home, it’s important that you understand what color your hair is," explains Reed. "Are you a medium warm brown or a light cool blonde?" Once you understand that, you can go ahead and select your color.
How can I make my hair color last longer?
Masks and treatments are beneficial to promoting healthy hair after coloring," explains Reed. "They instantly restore softness and smoothness to hair while refreshing color. This is especially important when you can’t get into a salon."
Should I get bangs or cut my hair?
No. Just like a breakup or any other drastic life change, leave your hair alone. "It's not recommended to change your hairstyle significantly under stress or pressure," says Brown.
How can I make my hair color last longer?
Use sulfate- and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner, Brown says. Washing less frequently and eliminating heat will help your hair color last longer too.
How do I get rid of my gel manicure at home?
If you're wearing gel nail polish and it's starting to grow out, don't sstart peeling it off by hand—it can damage your natural nails. Instead, Sherman recommends using a nail buffer to buff the visible line between the gel polish and your natural nail. "This will flatten things out a bit and make the grow-out zone less visible," says Sherman. "Then, apply a coat or two of regular nail polish and a top coat over your gels for a refresh."
For those looking to get creative, you can paint the "grow out zone" with a contrasting color or glitter polish. Try this helpful guide.
If I have to remove my nails, what should I do?
- Buff your fingernails with an emory board to remove the top coat.
- Soak a cotton ball in 100% acetone and place the cotton ball on your nail.
- Wrap each finger with a piece of aluminum foil and leave on for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove foil wraps and use an orange stick to gently scrape off any polish that was not removed.
Can I remove my own acrylics?
Sherman recommends waiting and seeking the help of a professional when you can. "The grow-out zone might be more obvious with acrylics than with gels, but you can remove your nail polish with nail polish remover (if it's regular polish), then lightly buff the line where the acrylics and your nail meets to minimize its visibility," explains Sherman. "Afterward, repaint your acrylics with regular polish."
If complete removal is necessary, follow these steps:
- Lightly buff the line where the acrylics and your nails meet to minimize its visibility.
- Pour 100% acetone into a bowl.
- Apply vaseline to the area around the fingernails to protect your skin from drying out.
- Dip your nails into the bowl for 30 minutes.
- The acrylic will soften, allowing you to gently remove any leftover with a nail buff or file.
- File your natural nails into your preferred shape, moisturize hands and nails with a heavy lotion, then apply a strengthening topcoat.
- Repaint your acrylics with regular polish.
Here is another helpful guide for removing your acrylics at home.
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Should I invest in a cuticle cream with all the excessive washing?
Yes, it's so important to use a cuticle oil or cream to keep your nails and cuticles hydrated during this time when you're excessively washing your hands, likely with a strong anti-bacterial soap which can be extra drying. Apply it when you can throughout the day, or before bed.
How can I quit biting my nails?
Many people are using this time at home to focus on self-improvement, and breaking a bad habit is included here. "While you should be making it a point to not touch your face or put your hands in your mouth, if you have a bad nail-biting habit, we suggest keeping a nail file on hand," explains Sherman. "If any nails split or peel, lightly file to even them out and prevent yourself from biting." She adds, "if you’re a cuticle picker, keeping cuticles hydrated helps them from getting dry and scraggly and enticing you to pick them."
I've been showering a lot more. Is that terrible for my skin?
Yes. Sorry, but yes. While hot showers are great to relieve stress, they are very drying and harmful to your skin. Both doctors recommend limiting your showers to ten minutes and keeping the temperature lukewarm over boiling water. "Similar to what you imagine a heated pool to feel like during the summer," says Dr. Zeichner.
Should I be applying more lotion to my hands with all the washing?
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"The excessive use of hand washing and Purell-type solutions will eventually cause a hand eczema," says Dr. Bashley. "Try to wash the hands with mild soap and, if possible, immediately moisturize right after." This is especially important if you're in a profession that requires you to wash your hands a lot, or you're exposed to chemicals on your hands in your line of work, such as at nail salons.
Dr. Zeichner recommends moisturizers that contain cosmetic-grade petrolatum, which forms a protective but breathable seal on the skin to keep hydration in and microorganisms out. Try Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Moisturizer.
Chloe Hall Beauty Director Chloe Hall oversees all beauty coverage at ELLE.com.